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On Other Blogs: From Beirut to the Beltway

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On Other Blogs: Blacksmiths of Lebanon

On Other Blogs:The Beirut Spring

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Leaving a restaurant - leaving a country

Today, I decided to grab some Lebanese food from a newly opened restaurant close to my house. Inadvertently, a discussion with the Lebanese store manager about the old TV show "Fame" somehow turned to discussing the movie Syriana and the assassination of the prince at the end of it. By some mysterious influence (Lahoud?) the manager started drawing comparisons between the assassination of that prince and the assassination of Hariri. He was clearly hinting that the Americans had either killed him or greenlighted it. After a few split seconds of me debating with myself whether to shut up or shut him up, I decided on the latter. Pretty soon, he started spewing off one conspiracy theory after the other, providing "alternative" versions of ancient history, modern history, and present day politics (One example of his ramblings is that the US and the UK supported Khomeini against the Shah whom they wanted to get rid of...). I struggled hard to understand what he was saying, to find the logic in his claims. Naturally I found none.
How do you debate or discuss with someone who will have a conspiracy theory to explain every event, every calamity that befalls us? I tried in vain to explain that we need to stop blaming others for our misery, to stop allocating responsibility to everyone but ourselves. I argued and argued and argued. I argued that we have to fault ourselves for failing to build the democratic state that we (I?) desire. I argued that no one internal group should have the right to dictate war. I argued that it was the responsibility of the elected representatives of the people to do so, only through state institutions and legal means. I argued that given the lack or weakness of such institutions and of such a truly democratic process, it is our duty to strengthen them and create them... I got nothing! More deluded versions of past and present, some abstract references to throwing ourselves in the arms of the west, more abstract references to dignity.
Finally, I asked him if the entire war was worth it. I asked him if the "price" we paid for an action most of us did not endorse was worth the "value" that we all received for it... I got the answer I should have expected. We maintained our dignity so it was worth it.
At that point I realized there was no point discussing this anymore. There is no way that I could convince him of my point of view because he simply did not want to listen. That is fine, he wasn't going to convince me either. On the other hand, he had no problem endorsing the imposition of a point of view and its consequences on me(via endorsing the actions of an organization operating outside the realm of the state).
I thanked him for the discussion and left his restaurant, just as I had left my country years before - disappointed.

PS: The man was in his forties or fifties and had lived in the US and Canada since he was in his twenties...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ziad Majed (2): On an aborted independence uprising

... On the 14th of March 2005, one month after the assassination of PM Rafic Hariri in a terrorist crime that changed the landscape of Lebanon, a million citizens gathered in Martyr's Square in Beirut heeding the call of the independence uprising against Syrian hegemony and the allies of the Syrian regime, especially those who had gathered on call from HA on the 8th of March. The crowd was record settings by all standards and crowned a month of demonstrations and gatherings and youth and citizen action led well by the wide opposition front, leading to breaking the wall of silence and fear that had "domesticated" and imprisoned most Lebanese and to re-establishing the bond between the people and public affairs in Lebanon. The "uprising" Lebanese made use of international support, at a time when the Syrian regime was under strain due to its assassination of Hariri and to the end of the American given mandate to run the Lebanese file. So Omar Karami's government fell and the fall of the heads of the security apparatuses began, and the country was liberated from a wide "intelligence" rule, and the Syrian army withdwrew on the 29th of April, 29 years after invading Lebanese soil and occupying political life on it. However, this large popular victory did not transform into a decisive political victory. More precisely, it did not cause internal ramifications that reflect its exceptional "external" victory and its liberation of Lebanon from Baathist rule. Between missing the opportunity of forcing the president to resign (as the PM had been) due to the position of the Maronite Patriarch who refused overthrowing him (on the street, before agreeing on a substitute), and accepting (quickly) the conditions of the Shiite political block of conducting elections based on the law of the year 2000, to Jumblatt's change of direction (against himself) and accepting HA's weapons and aligning himself with Saad Hariri and HA, to Aoun's withdrawal from the movement that had taken the name of the famous day, March 14 and his "opening fire" on all those in it and flirting with his newfound allies of the (non-Shiite)symbols of the elapsed Syrian era, arriving to the parliamentary elections taking place between the end of May and the end of June 2005, and the way it was controlled by sectarianism, and finally to renewing "the faith" in the speaker of the "Syrian-era parliament" who was elected speaker of the "Independence era" parliament... political confusion ensued and confusion in founding the new republic as well, and then this came to new heights with the formation of a new government "giving" (president) Lahoud a Christian cut to be added to the Shiite cut monpolized by HA and Amal.

If the sectarian system in its structure and philosophy can explain the high ability for blackmail by the two SHiite organizations being the "exclusive" representatives of one of the largest sects, thus giving legitmacy to the rule if they participate and removing it if they don't, then the logic of lack of trust and narrow sighted calculations and the obsessions of sectarian "weakness or prestige" and the loss of a political compass and the preparations for the postponed presidential battle, and accepting the advice of some arab and international regimes at the founding moment probably explain all the events resulting from them. A new government was founded with its PM and most of its ministers belonging to the new majority, but also involving the two Shiite poles of the minority and the representatives of the president! In other words, it rules based on a "disturbed" agreement with a minority (holding two of the three positions of the presidential troika), and an obscure compromise with those it is supposed to remove!

What is more is that the "lackluster performance" occurred at a time when the country was under a Syrian vengeful attack using a variety of different economic and political weapons, with several assassinations and assassination attempts occurring in its shadow, "dropping" in six months Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Jubran Tueni and his companions, injuring May Chidiac (as it injured Elias Murr, for different reasons, and killed and injured many innocent citizens and foreign workers).

These terrorist assassinations and HA's defense of their perpetrators lead to blowing things up between them and Hariri and Jumblatt and exacerbating matters with all the parties of the parliamentary majority, leading to a governmental crisis, where the SHiite ministers abstained from attending in objection to expanding the international Hariri investigation to inclide the rest of the ensuing assassinations, before returning (even with the continuations of the disagreement) after Hariri resumed holding talks with them, and SIniora declared in parliament that the "resistance" in the south was a national one.

Then came the Aounists' striking of a deal with HA in February 2006 to change much in the political arena in Lebanon. THeir alliance (combining the selfproclaimed father of resolution 1559 and the American bill(?) against Syria with those who accuse - from their position in the Syrian-Iranian axis both- the resolution and the bill of Zionism and serving Israeli interests!) formed a spearhead in the confrontation with the governemnt (eventhough one of them was participating in it) and a shield to protect its "opponent" Lahoud. THis allowed them to form a new sectarian alignment (albeit temporary) in Lebanon to loosen the siege against HA, and tickling AOun's presidential delusions, and balancing the scene that emerged between Feb 14 and March 14 2005. More importantly, it relieved the Syrian regime from the strains of the Lebanese "inside" and transformed itself into a support system for it and its policies, guaranteeing responses to the parliamentary majority in its attack by a "National" alliance combining Muslims and Christians with popular legitemacy.

Except, this alliance, in addition to its political oddities, was founded principally on mutually shared illusions between those who want to regain a position they believe that the christians had lost and who sees that revenge against "personal" damage is by making it public (?), and between those who aspire to remain in a political and military society outside the state but connecting with other sects for Lebanese societal necessety.

In March 2006, what was called the National Dialogue started with the poles of the sects, MPs and heads of parliamentary blocks, continuing to go nowhere on the issues of the presidency, HA's weapons and the defence strategy as well as its procurement of the decisions for war and peace and the relationship with Syria. The "dialogers" failed to arrive at clear agreements and to translate what agreements they did arrive at into policy and implementable decisions.

On all this course, from the day of the uprising to the day of the defunct dialogue, Lebanon missed ,once again, a golden opportunity to build the project of the state due to Sectarian calculations and connections to regional axes and international politics. At this time, the region was witnessing dangerous escalation in sectarian conflict in occupied Iraq and Israeli terrorism in Palestinian land, and in international concern about the Iranian nuclear file. So the Lebanese situation became open to many possibilities most of them coming from its surroundings and founded in its institutional weakness and its sectarian tension, making it easy to affect its political environment.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ziad Majed on Missed Opportunities in Lebanon

This is an article by Ziad Majed of the Democratic Left movement in Lebanon, the same party to which Samir Kassir belonged. The original article is in arabic and can be found here. I think it is worth reading. Below is the first part.

Lebanese political alliances only offer evidence of lacking any nationally responsible behaviour, and to lacking any awareness that could lead to the establishment of a modern state in a country which in addition to having a complex sectarian nature, has a tragic political landscape. Perhaps the important events in the last six years, starting with May 25th 2000 (liberation of the south) and passing by March 14th 2005, when most Lebanese rose against Syrian hegemony, and finally arriving at July 12th 2006 when Hizballa captured two Israeli soldiers signalling the beginning of a barbaric Israeli agression - these events all indicate an amazing ability to pass up on chances to acquire the tools needed to build a state deserved by so many citizens of this country .

On the libaration left uninvested in
Lebanese land was liberated in 2000 from Israeli occupation lasting 22 years. Land was liberated in a precedent in the Arab-Israeli struggle, due to factors ranging from armed resistance started by the National Resistance Front and crowned by the Islamic Resistance with a victory that could have been used to signal a new political era in Lebanon returning to the Lebanese interior the idea of the state that was missing completeness after the Taif accord, meaning reachieving the soveriegnty that lacked due occupied land, and the independence that was robbed by Syrian hegemony. However, the connection between the "interior" and the "exterior" and the regional care shown to keep the Lebanese south under the mercy of resolution 242 on the one hand and the sectarianism of the ruling political class as well as the control of the "security" factor of the Lahoud/Sayyed reign on the other hand, prevented this transition to the stage of building political institutions that are "accpetable" by legal and sovereignty standards.

Preserving the "struggle" in the Shebaa farms suited Israeli, Syrian and Iranian interests of controlling the possibility of localized tension, and of maintaining the means for transmitting political message on an occupied land whos legal standing is internationally obscure. Moreover, the Lebanese authority, controlled by intelligence services, did not consider altering its internal politics to absorb tensions let alone trying to find a new form for the relationship with the Syrian regime, which in turn and with its well known stupidity, missed the opportunity for changing its behaviour in Lebanon in an exceptional moment of strength. So we awoke after the elections of September 2000 on a new political scene that laid the foundation for causing a popular uprising against the Syrians and for creating more distance between a HA that is victorious in resistance but that accepted militarily transforming to a "regional mailman" and many Sectarian and non-Sectarian Lebanese powers with different calculations and interests.
That way, Lebanon remained for years as if its south was never liberated (despite the celebrations on Liberation day), and witnessed internal struggles that were similar to other struggles taking place inside the Syrian regime between civilians and military men who had run the Lebanese "file" for years and new intelligence (people) who had a growing stranglehold on its political and monetary affairs.
On the other hand, the national opposition, personified in Qurnet Shahwen and the "Minbar Dimocrati", could not balance the scale of power internally, and matters remained in eb and flow, political life dropping to new lows, until the Syrian extension of Lahoud's mandate and the issuing of resolution 1559 which opened the door - despite the severity of their effects - to radical change wide open.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hariri and Jumblatt's Press Conferences

Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt both held press conferences....

Saad spoke of national unity but stressed the importance of the state, the sole authority in the country. He refused that the state be a synonym for weakness, its institutions discarded and abandoned. He strongly affirmed that the Lebanese cannot have dignity without their state and warned of the dangers that lurk as a result of the latest Israeli aggression, reitirating that it would no longer be allowed for the state to be the weakest player in the country.
He referred to the dangers that originate from the wreckless speeches coming from abroad, an obvious reference to Bashar's speech, citing it as all the more reason for rallying behind a strong state. Saad also spoke of the army, looking forward to the role that it, with the help of the international community, will play in the south. He further attacked Bashar, describing the Syrian president's latest speech as heavy shelling and bombing of a different kind. He described it as a speech inciting hatred and not becoming of the position of the president of Syria, interfering in Lebanese matters, giving lessons in patriotism and resistance while his Golan heights are occupied. Saad then addressed the Syrian people contrasting their love and friendship towards the Lebanese to their regime's hatred and lies, reminding them again of the occupied Golan. He accused the regime in Syria of trading in the blood of the children of Qana, Gaza and Baghdad to further its own goals. He also sympathized with the Syrian people's plight, and with their quest for freedom as they have to watch their dictatorial regime attacking democratically elected governments.
He warned that Lebanon is flanked by two neighbors that it should be wary of, for different reasons, and ended his speech by stressing national unity...

In short, Hariri focused on the need for a strong state and dedicated some time to replying to the Syrian president's tirade against lebanon.

Jumblatt started his press conference by referring to US president G.W. Bush's policy of pre-emptive strikes, and his invasion of Iraq and the insuing chaos over there. He also referred to the Iranians and their nuclear program.
He said that wars should not play out in Lebanon, whether initiated by Syria and Iran or the US and Israel.
He then reminded Nasralla of the fact that he and others of March 14 who defended the resistance at various occasions on the international scenes, but asked who the "resistance" pledges loyalty to.
More importantly he referred to Nasralla's claims that the Americans and Israelis had this all planned out from before, asking him whether the government deserved to know of such information. Jumblatt went on point by point referring to Nasralla's various speeches highlighting his blatant disregard to the Lebanese state.
Jumblatt then pointed out that it was easy for Nasralla to rebuild the destroyed homes using Iranian money, but that it would not be that easy to rebuild the destroyed trust in Lebanon. He also reminded that not once in any of his speeches did Nasralla mention the Taif accord or the Lebanon-Israel armistice agreement, two very important documents in Jumblatt's opinions. He then asked again, now that the army was heading south... whether it would be possible to finally apply the armistice agreement, or would we have to fight till eternity while not a shot is fired from the Syrian Golan heights... Jumblatt then addressed the topic of dignity, asking whether the only path to dignity is by adhering to the Iran/Syria axis, adding whether a country's "dignity" is achievable without state institutions.
Jumblatt returned to the issue of the army heading south, calling the agreement by which such a move was authorized vague (in reference to the cabinet meeting and decision). He pointed out that Nasralla on the one hand says yes to the army, and on the other maneuvers against it. He then referenced Nasralla's veiled questioning of the Taif state, saying that this was uncalled for. He refuted Nasralla's argument of protecting Lebanon by remaining outside the state institutions by citing all the destruction that fell on the state and the people despite those intentions.

He then asked whether we were destined to be like Abu-mazen and Arafat's authority in Palestine? He pointed out that one day Olmert would fall and Netanyahu would take his place, and the cycle of violence would continue, only in Lebanon the one field for everyone's war games. He addressed the resistance crowd, i.e. the Shia, to respect the feelings of the rest of the Lebanese, who do not want to see their country destroyed... He ended this part of his speech by saluting the fighters, and the people who held strong during the crisis.

Jumblatt then moved on to discuss Assad's speech. He reminded the Syrian regime that Jumblatt had chosen to move past his father's assassination (by Syria), in order to protect both the Lebanese and Syrian people against a surrender to Israel (May 17). He asked whether the only way Assad knew how to conduct resistance was by using Lebanon to improve your negotiating position with the US. He stressed that the Syrian game is clear, pausing to ask Nasralla whether the consensus on the international tribunal on the Hariri assasination still held. Pointing out that criminals usually go back to the scene of the crime, he noted how Assad refers to the Hariri investigation. He also pointed out how Assad was exporting militants to Iraq, wondering whether that will be our destiny in Lebanon as well.
Jumblatt ended by quoting former Iranian president Khatami who had said that promoting moderate islam and moderate christianity reduce the risk of confrontation, and that Lebanon is a model of such moderation... Khatami had also said that Israel sees no problem pursuing some of its historic goals; thus, she should be given no excuse to allow her to do so... Jumblatt then referred to another Shia, the very well respected late sheikh Shamsiddine who had asked the Shias to immerse themselves in their countries and not to create for themselves different paths than those of their compatriots... and not to heed the calls that promise to differentiate between them and others... and to stay firm ... on the Taif path ...

What makes Lebanon so special

In a comment on Abu Kais's BeirutBeltway blog, one reader questioned why we Lebanese patriots take pride in our army and hold such nationalisitic feelings toward Lebanon. This post is my answer to him.

We take pride in our army because it was the same army that refused to oppress the Lebanese citizens during the massive expression of patriotism on March 14, 2005. Unlike the armies of the neighboring Islamic and Arab regimes that exist only to deprive their people of the right to freedom.We, the patriotic Lebanese, believe in a Lebanon that does not discriminate between Muslims, Christians, Jews, Taoists, or Buddhists. It is this Lebanon that we strive for and I can't see a more noble cause to embrace.
We refuse to be the slaves of archaic Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Arabism, or Phoenecianism. We have come out to demand and obtain our freedom on March 14 and we will not hesitate to stand up for our rights again. From our ranks have risen Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Gebran Tueini, and Rafic Hariri, and like them, thousands more will rise until we achieve our goal.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lebanese Army Heads South

The Lebanese army has finally started deploying in south Lebanon,Reuters among many others sources, are reporting.

A column of more than 100 trucks, troop carriers and jeeps, flying red-and-white Lebanese flags, streamed through a makeshift bridge on the Litani to the town of Marjayoun. Some vehicles towed artillery pieces, others carried troops and equipment...
..."We are very happy. How can anyone deploy in his own land and not be happy," said a soldier who did not give his name.

That is all great, but what remains a cause for concern is that
...while the army will not allow the presence of any armed group, the cabinet decision did not mention any withdrawal of Hizbollah's fighters or the rockets they rained on northern Israel during the conflict.

Meanwhile progress is slow with assembling the new and improved UNIFIL force as the BBC reports.
Unifil is already under French command and Ms Alliot-Marie (defense minister) confirmed that France would continue to lead it once it grew in strength. But she refused to be drawn on the number of French troops that would be sent.
"Today, it's not 'How many troops and when?', it's 'To do what and how?'" she said on French TV. She added that only once a clear mandate had been established would it be clear which other countries would join the larger force.
So thats about it, the army is heading south, we are waiting for the UNIFIL troops, as well as the Israelis to withdraw. Meanwhile, we don't know what the deal is on the weapons south of the Litani. Ain't it grand being a citizen of Lebanon?

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Decapitator's "Victory" Speech

Hizbulla chief, Hassan Nasralla or the Decapitator, as Abu Kais likes to call him, has made yet another TV appearance declaring a strategic and historic victory. He had a lot to say about his appreciation for the sacrifices of the Lebanese people, and of the HA fighters. More importantly and dangerously, his beardedness has declared the launch of a drive to rebuild 15,000 housing units and to provide funds for families that have lost their homes to relocate while the reconstruction procedes...

The most dangerous aspect of his speech, by far the most frightening of all, is his reference to Lebanese politicians who spoke out against him during the battle. He played on sectarian sensitivities highlighting the fact that most of the casualties and destruction were in Shia territories. He stressed that these politicians made a "mistake" by publicizing the internal debate in time of conflict, affecting the psychology of civilians being slaughtered and of the fighters. He made a direct reference to Jumblatt without naming him.

Moving on in the list of dangerously inflammatory statements the decapitator flung in our faces. He addressed the issue of HA weapon's, reminding (read threatening) that HA came out victorious and that not even Israel has gone so far as to expect HA's disarming. He asked those who want HA disarmed whether or not they brought back the Shebaa farms or the prisoners, and whether they are capable of protecting Lebanon. He dismissed the concept of disarming HA as too hasty and simplistic. He agreed to spreading the sovereignty of the state, which he said they were part of, but said that he wants a strong and just state to spread its sovereignty. He the asked if this state fulfills those requirements.

Finally, he asked that the debate be moved to its natural position (the hiwar). He reminded that the two ingredients to the success of Lebanon are the resistance and national unity, asking that we not waste such assets. He described those as precursors to building the strong state he "desires".

In other words, the decapitator is in attack mode, his threats and his bullying continue at all but an accelerated pace. He has declared "victory" on both the frontlines and domestically and is acting as such. He will unabashedly compete with the state for reconstruction, he will not disarm, he has threatened the politicians of Lebanon demanding "unity". The man is talking like a representative of a state, his growing power becoming a threat to a sovereign Lebanon.

We are back to where we started before this war, except that we have a more emboldened HA maneuvering for the upper hand in Lebanon. It is time for democratic Lebanon to act, the initiative cannot be left in the hands of these thugs.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tense Ceasefire in Effect

8:00 am Lebanon time, a tense cease-fire goes into effect. One hour into it, the ceasefire seems to be holding, eventhough Israel is saying that it will maintain its blockade of the ports and airports in Lebanon. Also, the Lebanese government meeting yesterday was cancelled, possibly over disagreement over the disarmament of Hizbulla.

Very tense times and uncertainty looms large, but there is hope yet.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

And the victory goes to...

The Lebanese government unanimously adopted UN resolution 1701 today. Although the support vote was unanimous, HA ministers had reservations on some of the details which have not been disclosed yet. I will, however, jump the gun and predict these reservations in the following points:

  • Complete evacuation of the area south of the Litani of HA weapons
  • Monitoring air, sea, and land ports for arms smuggling
  • No mention of the Shebaa farms
  • No call for a ceasefire
  • Recall of UN resolution 1559

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi, announced after the cabinet meeting that the UN resolution 1701 was a resounding victory for the diplomacy undertaken by the Lebanese government, an opinion shared by Saniora a few hours earlier. Aridi went further to announce that HA has agreed to respect the full implementation of the resolution, including the weapons free zone south of the Litani. However, a low level HA official declared during an interview on Al-Arabiya that it is unlikely that they (HA) will "give Israel what it could not achieve through war".

Prior to the cabinet meeting, Nasrallah came out of his cave again to claim the victory. His victory is seen from a "slightly" different perspective than that of Saniora's though. Nasrallah only saw his militia's survival on the battlefield and the casualties inflicted on the IDF as his source of pride. True as that may be, his speach was somewhat benign in a sense that he did accept resolution 1701 with reservations, acknowledged the Lebanese people's steadfastness, and committed to a ceasefire as soon as the UN declares one. His true intentions, however, emerge in a comment that some parts of the resolution are considered "an interference in Lebanon's internal affairs." This particular comment takes Lebanon back to pre July 12th with the difference that Saniora's government has the Lebanese army in the south, a reinforced UNIFIL, and a violent 30-day war experience which the government should use to tip the balance against HA. The following few days will show how these positions unfold.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Possible UN resolution by Friday.

A breakthrough in the negotiations has been made on the international arena between the French and US teams to reach an agreement on a UN resolution by Friday

The breakthrough is based on the inclusion in the call for a cessation of hostilities for a progressive Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory to go simultaneously with the deployment of the Lebanese army backed by reinforced UN peacekeepers
reported Haaretz.
The reinforced UN peackeepers will primarily be backed by French soldiers. Moreover, the area south of the Litani river is to be devoid of Hizbullah guerillas and weapons.

It seems the Israeli maneuver of widening the ground invasion worked its magic. The threat has convinced the Lebanese government (and Hizbullah) to agree to a progressive Israeli withdrawal as opposed to calling for an immediate and complete withdrawal to end the fighting for fear of not reaching a solution. Israel showed that it is ready to take on more casualties by following through with a major escalation in the ground invasion. It's also worth noting that Saniora's initiative to send the Lebanese Army to the south had been a keystone in reaching the possible settlement.

So would it have been possible for both teams, Hizbullah and Israel, to have reached this same conclusion two weeks ago? I don't think it was. Both parties were pumped up with way too much ego, that it took two full weeks of bloody combat to realize neither group can win the military battle. Israel was banking on its ability to destroy Hizbullah in a swift invasion, but was proved wrong. Hizbullah was relying on internal pressure from within Israel to stop the invasion, and was also proved wrong.
I would hope that an agreement is reached by Friday. There are talks that such an agreement would also include details on resolving the Shebaa Farms issue. However, there has been no mentioning of the fate of the captured Israeli soldiers and Hizbullah fighters or the Lebanese prisoners yet.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nasralla's New Speech: A Sign That He is Bending ?

A little while earlier, Nasralla showed his bearded, turbaned, war crazed face again, to deliver yet another speech. Like many other times, he sent signals in all directions to all parties involved or affected by this war. Below are some of the key points of his speech, followed by a brief analysis:

- Stressed that HA has worked for an internally unified Lebanon as well as politically and on a government level.
- Asked the refugees and the displaced (mainly Shias) to refrain from activities that provoke their hosts (mainly non-Shias), especially that they have treated them with dignity.
- Stated that the US and Israel are trying to break internal unity.
- Priority is to hang in there and achieve political support
- Don't believe the enemy when they say that members of the Lebanese cabinet have communicated with them
- Everybody in the cabinet agrees to Siniora's seven point plan
- The French-American resolution is unjust and gives Israel more than it asked for and more than what it has achieved on the field
- The lebanese army is already south of the Litani but not at the border
- Our previous objection to the depolyment of the army did not stem from fear of it, but from concern for it
- We agreed to its deployment but worry for it still
- Sending 15000 troops south relieves pressure on the governemnt and allows amendments to the UN resolution
- Sending the army south is an honorable exit startegy
- The US will shoot down any resolution that gives lebanon its rights
- Accused the US of stalling a cease-fire resolution
- The enemy's bombing of infrastructure and it committing massacres is a sign of its failure on the field
- Lebanese civilians are being killed on purpose to pressure the resistance
- We are still on the field fighting strong on the villages at the border
- Security Council cannot protect Lebanon
- Fighting still raging in border towns
- Our survival and steadfastness is a defeat to Israel in itself
- 60 tanks destroyed, 100 soldiers and officers killed, 400 injured
- Israel has failed to diminish the rocket power of the resistance
- Israeli media "iron curtain" to hide their military losses
- We will turn our precious south a burial ground for the Israelis
- I tell the Israelis that you can reach any point in Lebanon but will suffer tremendous losses and you will leave eventually
- changing Commander of northern front big development wiht implications
- I ask the arabs of Haifa to leave the city

So as far as I can read, the man is willing to concede several points to the Lebanese government as long as none of his actions are perceived as a defeat. So far, their mere survival is a victory to them, but they are willing and probably capable of fighting hard for a while to come. He offered again to move the battle strictly to the field, i.e. no rockets in exchange for no airstrikes. More on this as I think about what he said some more :).

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lebanese Army Calls Up Reserves

The Lebanese army has called up its first reserve, i.e. soldiers who have been released less than 5 years ago.
Such a move is understood as precursor to sending the army south once the international forces are agreed upon and sent to Lebanon.
Is the government of Lebanon finally trying to take initiative ?


The Lebanese cabinet has unanimously voted to send 10,000 troops south as soon as the Israeli army withdraws.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Proposed UN Resolution, and why it won't fly

So finally France and US agreed on the text of a resolution:

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United States and France agreed on Saturday on a Security Council resolution calling for fighting between Israel and Hizbollah to end, but on the ground both sides traded fire and a Hizbollah rocket killed three.

The 15 member U.N. Security Council was due to receive the text at 1900 GMT to review it, the United Nations announced.

"This is a first step. There is still much to be done," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "But there is no reason why this resolution should not be adopted now and we have the cessation of hostilities ... within the next couple of days."

You can read the proposed text here.

Of course, it is highly unlikely that HA is going to accept this resolution if and when it is passed. It is going to take something more than this to get a "cessation of hostilities ... within the next couple of days." I am sure Mr. Blair realizes this, and so do the French and the Americans, but I wonder if they understand the situation on the ground.

Israel has the upper hand now, it is blitzing Lebanon and making slow headway inside Lebanese land. However, I do not see that they get to decide when to stop fighting, unless they can eradicate HA. Once they have established their security or buffer zone, only the damned HA will decide when the fighting stops... I fear that bad management of this crisis by everyone involved has only played into the hands of Iran and its proxy, and will only serve to prolong the suffering of Lebanon and its people.

More precisely, here is why I don't think this is going to work.

For a lasting ceasefire, cessation of hostilities has to be at the best interest of the warring parties involved. In this case, those parties are Hizbulla backed by Iran, and Israel. For Hizbulla to agree, it must have something to gain, or it must be able to cut its losses, bearing in mind that Iran as well has to agree. On the other hand, the militant group has a vested interest in continuing to fight, as this keeps at bay the prospect of disarming them, and will lead to them continuing to pressure Israel and the Israeli public. One has to bear in mind that they do not care about the Lebanese public or the interests of Lebanon, only their own and Iran's. More importantly, I think that they (and Iran) want this to drag on, and have the capability to sustain their fighting capabilities on the medium run. It is their only means of survival and salvaging their presence and Iran's on the Lebanese political scene.

That said, nothing has been offered to Iran, and I don't see that anything will (or should) be offered to them. Iran understands this and refuses to be ignored, and refuses to lose its presence in Lebanon. They will continue to support their proxy, spurring them on, doing everything in their power to keep them alive and kicking until they make their point. Iran will not be ignored, they have nothing to lose in prolonging this conflict, but they have something to gain.

The cold hard conclusion, we are up for a long hard process both diplomatically and on the field, which happens to be a country that is being systematically destroyed.

Syrian FM arrives in Lebanon at 1 pm local time (6am ET)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Squabbling in the Israeli Cabinet?

Haaretz, in its online edition reported the following under the title "PM, Peretz at odds on expanded ground operation":

Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Israel Defense Forces officials on Thursday evening to begin preparing for the next stage of the military offensive in south Lebanon, which would extend the IDF's control to all Lebanese territory south of the Litani River.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, however, is said to be reluctant about expanding Israel's ground operation. While Peretz believes that the short-range rocket threat posed by Hezbollah can be neutralized by taking the area up to the Litani, Olmert feels that such a move would not be able to counter the longer-range missile threat posed by the Shi'ite organization.

So, it would seem, the Israeli PM who has declared victory, doesn't believe his own words. The defence minister on the other hand, seems to be willing to indulge HA in its wishes for an expanded buffer zone, one that would give them further room to declare Israel as an occupation force, fight it, and gain more support among the Lebanese.

What I and many others have complained about, I will now repeat. Israel has no strategy for winning its war. It has failed to set reasonable achievable objectives, and is forcing its own hand. The more they fight and fail, the more they have to fight looking for some form of achievement. Many have wondered before about the stability of Siniora's government and its ability to withstand this war and its aftermath. I wonder if we should be asking the same questions of Olmert's government.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Helicopters Put Down IDF Commandos Near Baalbek (Haaretz

Haaretz reported that the IDF has landed commandos in Baalbek and quoted unnamed Israeli sources that the objective of the mission is to kidnap Sheikh Yazbek, a senior HA official.

Such a development (if it turns out to be true) would signal that the Israelis are trying to gather bargaining chips and increase the ante in their war with HA. The question of whether or not they will succeed is still open and the results of their actions on the negotiation process remain unkown. (12:59pm ET)


It seems that the fighting is centered around the Hikmeh hospital where the IDF seems to believe Yazbek is. The hospital has been targetted and is burning at the moment. (1:41pm ET)

Update 2

Israel sources say that their forces captured three HA militants. HA say the three are not members of HA. This is borderline comic.